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Trees and Timber in the Anglo-Saxon World$
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Michael D. J. Bintley and Michael G. Shapland

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199680795

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199680795.001.0001

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Christianity and the ‘Sacred Tree’

Christianity and the ‘Sacred Tree’

Chapter:
(p.228) 12 Christianity and the ‘Sacred Tree’
Source:
Trees and Timber in the Anglo-Saxon World
Author(s):

Della Hooke

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199680795.003.0012

Trees were powerful icons in many pre-Christian religions and the presence of trees or posts as symbolic features at royal sites is now archaeologically attested in Britain. Whilst these beliefs were largely superseded after the conversion, superstition lingered on in places, revealed, for instance, in references found in Anglo-Saxon charters and in some place-names. The tree also gained a new or adapted iconography in Christian writings—as in the trees of the Garden of Eden or the Tree of Jesse but, above all with the replacement of the living tree by the ‘one, true cross’. Trees also continued to play a role in Christian hagiography, found, for instance, in many saints’ Lives. Real trees, too, found a new role in Christian thought—especially the yew which was widely planted in Christian churchyards, perhaps as a symbol of resurrection, although others, such as the elder, were reviled.

Keywords:   trees, Christianity, charters, place-names

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